to the imaginary

by Alisa Lu
Art by Allison Li
Issue: Solivagant (Winter 2018)

You were something I made up, in one way or the other.

We played together when everyone told me no. My dad had work and my mom had work and my sister had work and I had you. We had carefree picnics under the kitchen table, where the warm breeze from the window gently blew kisses upon my cheeks, sweeping in the scent of the outdoors, of someone’s lunch, and of the faint unknown. We sat in a field of long grass and sunflowers, and our world held a soft glow that blessed everything it touched. It was our secret place where we could hide forever.

I would lay down and watch the clouds float by and change shape as wisps of cotton candy flew away, bite by bite. I capered in the fields, chasing grasshoppers, trapping them in my cupped hands and letting them jump away, far, far away, and of course, came that fleeting feeling of being the god of my own world.

For our picnic, I ate cheese and crackers with apple cider, the fanciest thing I knew how to make by myself. But the uneven carpet made for easy accidents. Do you remember when I spilled apple cider on myself and spent an hour cleaning up the mess? Of course you don’t, because you were nowhere to be found.

We met again, not long later. I think it was you; I’m not too sure.

It was a bleak day. The sky was painted gray and charcoal, as though it were a scene from my dreams. Contrasting the monotonous skies were the books on the shelves, which were quiet islands, cluttered in a seemingly random arrangement, some a deep forest green, others a vibrant yellow, each with their own unique biospheres. I scanned the shelves, my fingers brushing gently across the spines, searching for a connection. One that I found.

When you strolled into the aisle, and my eyes met yours. They instantly darted away, and I wonder now, who broke eye contact first? Or did we both at the same time?

I foolishly fantasize now, that maybe I could’ve made my best friend right then and there. If some kind of work of God could’ve brought us together. Maybe if I asked you what music you were listening to, or if somehow all the books on the shelf fell onto us and we found ourselves in some strange predicament, a forced place to bond.

And as everyone waits anxiously for us to dig ourselves out of the books, we would emerge, laughing from the hysterical impossibility of what happened. Your hearty laugh would echo throughout the building, and everyone would look at us all funny. That’s when we’d tell them, “Quick, get the camera!” And then we’d pose in front of a pile of destroyed books, making silly faces, until the manager, our new arch nemesis, tells us to get out. You could’ve been the best friend I never had.

But we grazed past each other and that was that. You drifted away like a cloud in the breeze, you hopped away like a grasshopper from my hands, you disappeared like an imaginary friend from my mind.

Maybe we’ll meet again in my dreams.

Silhouettes of picnic baskets, with a small teapot in the foreground.